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8 March 2016
News

Naser Oric Trial Witness ‘Feared’ Bosniak Commander

Erna Mackic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The first protected witness at the war crimes trial of Naser Oric said that he feared the Bosnian Army ex-commander, who he alleged killed Serb prisoners in Srebrenica in 1992.
The protected witness codenamed O1, who testified via video link from Belgrade on Tuesday, told the Bosnian state court that he did not give the full information about Oric’s alleged crimes against Serb prisoners during earlier statements to police after the war because he was afraid.

In a statement he gave to police in 2003, O1 did not say that he saw Oric killing Serb prisoner Mitar Savic, but saw “[a soldier called] Ahmo pulling him by the moustache, while Zulfo Tursunovic killed another prisoner”.

O1 explained on Tuesday that he “feared Oric”, but was not afraid of Tursunovic, despite the fact that Tursunovic had been convicted of murder before the war.

Oric and former Bosnian Army soldier Sabahudin Muhic are charged with killing three Serb captives in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjarac in 1992.

According to the charges, Oric was the commander of Bosnian Army territorial defence units in Srebrenica and Muhic a member of his forces.

O1 began his testimony on February 23, when he said that he recalled seeing Oric killing three Serb prisoners near Srebrenica in 1992 and Muhic shooting at two of them after Oric.

But in his 2003 statement to police about the killing of another Serb prisoner, Milutin Milosevic, O1 said that after Oric shot the prisoner, “Senad Salihovic shot a round as well”.

However in later statements, which the defence quoted in an attempt to show that O1 was an unreliable witness, he said Muhic was the co-perpetrator.

“I did not mention Muhic’s crimes because I was afraid of the commander [Oric],” said O1.

Muhic, he explained, was Oric’s “main support during the war and a trusted aide”.

The Hague Tribunal acquitted Oric in 2008 of taking part in crimes in Srebrenica in 1992.

His defence asked for the case against him in Bosnia to be dropped because of this, but the Hague Tribunal rejected the request, saying that the cases dealt with different crimes.

Oric and Muhic have both denied the charges.

The case against Oric has drawn criticism from Bosniaks who see him as a hero for his role in defending Srebrenica in the years before the 1995 massacres. The case has also been criticised by Serb war victims, who have claimed that the charges are too modest.

The trial continues on March 22, when the second prosecution witness will testify.

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